Thursday, June 12, 2014

The Good Stuff

I like to search Google Images for photos, paintings, posters, cartoons, etc., that I use to illustrate this blog (FYI, if a blog is free to view and has no advertising, you can legally use copyrighted images), as well as decorate my computer desktop (or, as we say in English, screen). The painting above is currently on my desktop; I picked it up in a search for images of summer because it really spoke to me. The blue-gray, the iced tea, the fan. I’m not a summer person, but in summer I like iced tea and fans. I also like my desktop to reflect the seasons and holidays and special occasions or just my mood.

Thinking about what I like reminded me of a thread of emails I recently had with a friend I’ve known since high school. He said he reads my posts with his morning coffee and he couldn’t remember the last time I wrote something positive, that it’s all “complaints” – a choice of words I found odd for what I regard as political analysis and commentary on contemporary culture and major social issues, which is what this blog is about. “I know there’s a lot of woe out there, but there’s a lot of good stuff, too,” he said.

That got me thinking. In my reply, I told him that the difference in our lives might explain the difference in our perceptions. He’s a healthy, busy man with a wife about 15 years his junior and two young children, all of whom he adores, as well as quite a few friends, a dog he loves; and he revels in nature and pretty much ignores politics – so I can see how he perceives lots of good stuff.

But cranky, curmudgeon me, I’m broke, alone, my handful of good friends are scattered across the country, I have no affinity with children/animals/nature and I’m a political junkie. So I don’t see a lot of good stuff. I see the nation, the world and the planet going to hell in a hand basket. I told him I didn’t see any good stuff. “Sunshine and flowers don’t make up for all that,” I said.

But I’ve continued to think about the idea of good stuff, and to ask myself why I don’t see any – or, more significantly, discount the good stuff I do encounter as not being sufficient. I’m mature enough to understand that happiness isn’t a constant state of jubilation, it’s the ability to take conscious pleasure in the many little things we do enjoy, to find at least temporary contentment in the blue-gray and iced tea and fan, to not be so quick to dismiss sunshine and flowers.

Last Saturday, I went out on my mobility scooter (I love my scooter and I’m lucky to have it). It was a hot day, but I was wearing cool clothes and it was better in the shade. The air felt lovely on my face as I scooted along beneath a bright blue sky punctuated with big cotton-ball clouds. That was good stuff. I went for a much-needed haircut to the same nice hairdresser I’ve been going to for 25 years and the shampoo she gave me reminded me of when I was a little girl and my mother washed my hair and how nice that felt. Good stuff.

Later I bought fresh fruit from a sidewalk vendor because those guys have fine produce that’s much cheaper than the supermarket, then treated myself to a multi-fruit smoothie from a food truck and lastly found a windowless building wall, parked against it and smoked a couple of cigarettes as the breeze blew through my blessedly-much-shorter hair (portable ashtray in hand, of course) and that was good stuff too.

And throughout the week, I felt the comfort of good stuff. Early morning with strong iced coffee and a toasted bagel, a slice of cheese flattened down on each half; other food I like; movies I enjoyed on TV; phone calls with girlfriends; the bliss of turning on the air conditioner on humid afternoons; and watching The 2014 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony and listening to so much good music (I miss good music).

I also spent considerable quality time with my many Tarot card decks (which I haven’t done for ages), cleansing them with the sound waves of a strand of Tibetan bells I bought on Eighth Street back in the ‘60s, touching & gazing at & shuffling them and talking to them, getting reacquainted with these special old friends. I did some chores and accomplished a few things long left unattended. I looked for things I hadn’t been able to find and I found them, and found some other wonderful things I forgot I had. It was all very good stuff.

Sure, there was some bad stuff, too: lots of worldly woe and personal woe too. Still, I didn’t ignore the good stuff, I felt it and was thankful for it. That was an important thing and I’m going to remember to do that from now on. But I’ll still bemoan the misery of our politics and the horrendous state of the nation/world and the decay of contemporary culture – and write about it here. It’s a dirty job, but somebody’s gotta do it and I’ve appointed me. I can’t just lounge in the good stuff all the time. We are who we are.

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